Alderman asks whether bikes should be licensed
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com October 27, 2011 12:12AM
Updated: November 28, 2011 10:16AM
The more bike lanes Chicago installs, the bolder some cyclists become, a powerful aldermen complained Wednesday, sheepishly suggesting that the city license bicycle riders.
Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), chairman of the City Council’s Rules Committee, vented his frustrations during budget hearings as Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein took his turn on the hot seat.
Klein is an avid cyclist who is implementing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to make Chicago the “bike friendliest city in the country” — by installing 100 miles of protected bike lanes over the next four years and launching what could become the nation’s largest bike-sharing program.
“I wonder if it’s possible. I guess you can’t do it. But, have ’em licensed. Have a bike license. Put a little tag on it. Pay a couple bucks. But if not that, at least say, ‘Here’s what we’re doing for you. How ’bout doing something for us? How ’bout adhering to the traffic signs?’” Mell said.
“Nothing aggravates people more than the guy who’s sitting there patiently [at a red light and watching a bike rider who] shoots across. Some of ’em put themselves in danger, too. As we flaunt the fact that we’re trying to make the city more hospitable to bike riders, they do owe a responsibility to pedestrians, who have to dodge away from them.”
If licensing bike riders is not possible, Mell said he would settle for public service announcements targeting bad bike behavior.
“Some of the bike riders, even in my ward, are upset with some of the other bike riders who put them in the same bag as everybody else. They run right through the red lights. They could care less,” the alderman said.
Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said bike licensing has been tried in other countries, but nowhere in the U.S. that he’s aware of — and for good reason.
“It’s been extremely complicated to implement, and it’s not a deterrent to reckless cycling,” Burke said.
“What is a deterrent to reckless cycling is enforcing the laws that already exist. Cycling the wrong way on a street or on a sidewalk unless you’re under 12 [outside the Central Business District] is illegal. There are plenty of laws on the books already. They need to be enforced. That and better education of cyclists are the two best strategies.”
Under questioning from Mell, Klein did not respond to the licensing suggestion. He would only say that bike riders are “no different than pedestrians and drivers in that there are those who abide by the law and those who don’t.”
Then, he changed the subject to the bike safety campaign he plans to launch next spring, utilizing 23 bike ambassadors.
“When we launched the Kinzie protective bike lane, we had ’em out every day for quite a while during rush hour,” he said. “We’ll also work on more aggressive signage and even putting stop signs on pavement to remind people.”
Earlier this month, the City Council agreed to “level the playing field” between cyclists and motorists — by banning texting and talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device while riding.
The crackdown was launched as the city prepares to offer 3,000 bicycles for rent at 300 stations by next summer — with no charge for the first 30 minutes — under an ambitious plan aimed at making cycling “a new transit system.”